Advani defends Varun, slams poll panel (Lead)

March 29th, 2009 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Sunday defended Varun Gandhi, who has been arrested following his inflammatory speeches, and criticised the Election Commission for asking the party not to field him in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP leader at a press conference at the party headquarters here said the charges of communally venomous speeches at party rallies by Varun Gandhi were yet to be proved.

“It has not been proved till now whether the charges are wrong or right. Varun has said it is not his voice and the tapes are doctored,” Advani said.

He said the BJP had already “dissociated itself” from the contents of the Varun Gandhi speeches in Pilibhit constituency of Uttar Pradesh.

The party had taken a correct position as per the constitution, he added.

Advani asserted that the Election Commission had no right to ask any party not to field a particular candidate, but said he also advised his party’s poll candidates to exercise restraint while making election campaign speeches.

Advani said the election watchdog could take legal action and direct the police to file criminal cases if it wanted, but to ask a political party not to field a certain candidate would be crossing its jurisdiction.

“As far as I remember, this is the first time in the last 60 years that the Election Commission has asked a party not to give ticket to someone. No rule or the constitution gives such a right to the commission,” Advani said.

The Election Commission last Sunday indicted Varun Gandhi of breaching the model code of conduct while making anti-Muslim speeches in Uttar Pradesh and asked the BJP not to field him as a party candidate.

The BJP is likely to field Varun Gandhi from Pilibhit.

Meanwhile, reacting to Advani’s statement, the Congress alleged that the BJP was skirting the main issue about its exact position on Varun Gandhi.

“The real culprits are Advani and his party,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

Singhvi said Advani and the BJP were “trying to divert and digress” from the real issue. “Does he support Varun Gandhi’s tactics, does he endorse them, does he agree with them?” he asked and added that the BJP should answer these questions.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal told reporters that Advani’s attack on the Election Commission was out of place. He said he could not understand why was Advani making such a big deal of the commission.

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